STOCKTON — The bunt off of Jordon Costa’s bat trickled through the infield, one inch deep enough and one inch long enough to avoid winding up in the outstretched glove of Mandy Sifuentes.
By the time the ball rolled through Sifuentes’ legs, leaving the Patterson High softball pitcher wondering how in the world this Sac-Joaquin Section Division V crown could possibly be slipping away — there were two runners on and no outs.
Breanna Brodie delivered the game’s big blow shortly thereafter, pelting a two-run double to the left-field corner, plating what would be Escalon’s winning runs Saturday in a dramatic 6-1 victory.
Give the Cougars an inch, and they just might take the title.
“This is the type of team that, if you give them a little crack, they take advantage of it,” said Escalon coach Dianne Teixeira, whose team kept finding just enough cracks to defeat the Tigers. “They’re very good.”
Both teams withstood a grueling 17 innings on Saturday, playing in 100-degree temperatures, to see who would walk away with the Division V softball title.
After dropping a 10-inning decision to Patterson, Escalon rebounded to claim what Teixeira said was its first team title in any girls sport, scoring five runs in the seventh.
Patterson, 2-0 losers to Escalon on Wednesday, came out of the losers bracket to reach the finals. The Tigers needed wins over Hilmar (8-0) and Calaveras (2-0) on Friday to have a chance at redemption.
Sifuentes almost single-handedly gave the Tigers a shot at the championship, tossing a 10-inning, two-hit shutout with 20 strikeouts in a 1-0 win.
In that first game, international rules were used in the 10th. Each team put a runner on second to begin the inning, but Escalon squandered its opportunity, stranding its runner. Patterson capitalized, bunting Lesley Scheuber over, then Rebecca Hinojos pushed another bunt up the middle of the infield to bring in the run.
Patterson’s ace had her way with the Cougars for most of the second game, too, before Escalon’s Katie Schmidig found her way on with an infield single to lead off the seventh. Costa reached on Sifuentes’ error, setting the table for Brodie’s game-winning double.
“It was just a matter of getting the ball in play,” Patterson’s Kayla Souza said. “We’re both good hitting teams, but (Saturday) they had more luck at the plate.”
Things only got worse for the Tigers.
Escalon’s Samantha Lorigo walked, but she didn’t stop at first. Instead, Lorigo kept running, throwing the Tigers for a loop. Patterson catcher Samantha Kramer fired a throw to second, forcing Lorigo into a rundown, but allowing Brodie to score.
Lorigo, who wound up safe at second, eventually scored on a Lounette Jackson single.
It was more than enough cushion for Escalon’s star pitcher, Caitlin Brooks. Brooks threw 17 innings over the two games on Saturday, finishing with 16 strikeouts.
Not to be outdone, Sifuentes countered with 17 innings, 27 strikeouts and only three walks.
Only Patterson’s nightmare seventh in the second game separated the two aces.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more from the team,” Patterson coach Dave Klein said. “We came one inning shy of a section championship.
“We played (Escalon) tooth and nail. We’re as good as anybody out here.”
• Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187 or email@example.com.